W.C. Fields (1880-1946) made a fleeting movie debut 90 years ago, in a short called “Pool Sharks,” which allowed him to re-enact one of his most famous vaudeville routines. He returned to the movies in a systematic, indelible way in the last years of the silent period and was never threatened by the advent of sound. On the contrary, he became a splendidly preposterous adornment to the medium once recorded sound could do justice to his sarcastic and grandiloquent idiom.
The American Film Institute Silver Theatre will revive several of the great comedian’s movies over the next two weeks. The Fields series starts tomorrow with a bill of The Bank Dick and the two-reel short The Dentist, which date from 1940 and 1932, respectively. Admirers will need little inducement. Newcomers will encounter definitive examples of small-town social comedy and slapstick virtuosity in the Fields manner. Equally enjoyable starting points: Never Give a Sucker an Even Break on Saturday; My Little Chickadee on Monday; and It’s a Gift, twinned with the two-reel classic The Fatal Glass of Beer, on July 23.
Ray Brubacher will supply live organ accompaniment for the silent titles. The first selection, It’s the Old Army Game, made in 1926, is scheduled for Sunday. Harriet A. Fields, a granddaughter who lives in the Washington area, will introduce a number of films in the series.
The AFI Silver is at 8633 Colesville Road in Silver Spring. Admission is $9.25 for the general public. 301/495-6720.
— Gary Arnold
Once in a while, a show of great contemporary drawings comes along, and the Baker’s Dozen exhibit at the Robert Brown Gallery is one. This summer group show of 13 of the gallery’s favorite artists presents the humorous watercolors of Swiss artist Fifo Stricker, the poetic landscapes of Wolf Kahn and the ink-filled drypoint etchings of Lovis Corinth and William Kentridge, among others. At Robert Brown, 2030 R St. NW. Noon to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays through July 30. 202/483-4383.
— Joanna Shaw-Eagle